Although I have been excited to watch the Office of International Programs grow steadily since I became its executive director in 2003, we all know that numbers and statistics cannot tell the full story. Yes, I am pleased to see the ever-increasing presence of international students, faculty and staff on our campus. And yes, I celebrate the ever-widening scope and size of our study abroad programs. What gives all of us in the OIP the greatest pride, however, is watching the spirit of internationalization permeate JMU and understanding that living in a different culture unfailingly changes students’ lives – whether that different culture is in Harrisonburg or Cairo.
Why do we travel so far? Sometimes, it’s the chance at a course or degree program we can’t get otherwise. Sometimes it’s the charismatic faculty or a guiding parent or a persuasive friend. The chance to live in Paris. The chance to teach in Kajiado. The chance to work in Mumbai. The chance to study in America. By experiencing what is outside ourselves, what is new and different, we have the opportunity to learn about how others take on life, what gives them meaning and joy, how they work and play, their rituals, songs and sorrows. Because ultimately, to understand ourselves, we have to understand what it means to be someone else.
We are all travelers on our own journey. And we’re going to meet a lot of people along the way. We will love some, loathe others. But if we strive for understanding and compassion, we will likely receive it in return.
I invite you to join the journey.
Executive Director, Office of International Programs